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Sneaky edibles -What are the most beautiful edibles in your garden?

 
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I like to put edibles in my flower gardens, intermixed with flowers. I love when there is an edible plant that is stunningly beautiful that I can sneak in - and get compliments on!

My favourites are:
-Amaranth- red leaves provide a lot of interest and food early in the season, and the bright red heads are stunning. Planning a much bigger patch next year.
- Rhubarb - the red stalks against the green leaves are pretty striking as a foliage plant with hostas (which are also edible).
- cabbage. Honestly, I am a little obsessed with the grey green ball shape of cabbage. I consider my two rows of cabbage some of the prettiest in my veggie garden, andthey provide a lot of visual interest.
- cherry tomatos. When they start ripening, they add a lot of interest to the beds.
- Various herbs - lavender, thyme, mint, etc have lovely flowers. Sage adds texture and colour as a foliage plant.

What are your favourites?

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Dill amaranth and background cabbage
Dill amaranth and background cabbage
Amaranth-seed-head.jpg
Amaranth seed head
Amaranth seed head
 
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Amaranths and sorghums are really pretty. I don’t have any this year, but next year I will. I think the prettiest things I have growing this year are scarlet runner beans and brocolli/purple cauliflower. The runner blossoms are very pretty on the trellis, and the brocolli and cauliflower are huge and kind of tropical or pre-historic looking. They’re about 2-3 cu. ft, very impressive as garden plants.
 
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Day Lillies - the buds are edible and I've used them in stir-fries. I believe the leaf shoots are in spring, but I haven't tried them yet, nor have I tried the roots because the patch isn't overgrown enough that I want to harvest them yet. Downside - the deer agree with me on this one.

Personally, I adore Scarlet Runner Bean vines - the flowers and the way the vines grow quickly to shade places that need some pretty shade. Bonus - the Hummingbirds agree with me. Downside - the deer not only agree, but seem particularly partial to all parts of bean plants so protection is essential in my eco-system.
 
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Cardoons (not to be confused with artichokes, although those would also fit the bill)


Swiss chard
 
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Amaranths! I actually grow them and plant them in locations for their ornamental value. I do harvest some of the seeds, but mostly just for seed keeping for the following year. I leVe theain seedheads for the wildlife.

Swiss chard is also pretty spectactular! I always have rainbow swiss chards.

Calendula are one of the most cheerful flowers, whether they are orange or yellow. As are poppies! I love poppies! Nasurtiums are also quite nice.

Vining beans are often really pretty- my purple vining beans have gorgeous fuschia flowers against gark green leaves woth red veins.

This year I also have variegated tomatoes. The foliage is gorgeous- they are attractive enough to be ornamentals. I cant wait until the fruit ripens, and all the boughs of tomatoes light up red against the silvery green and white leaves. :)  

And while Icant find much information on it, my rose of sharons and my rose mallows *would seem* to be edible, given they are part of the mallow family. Not sure if I could bear to pluck my gorgeous flowers from their stems, but I actually like hibiscus tea so I might sacrifice one or two to try.


IMG_20200811_122308.jpg
Are rose mallows tasty? ... they are certainly special!
Are rose mallows tasty? ... they are certainly special!
 
Catie George
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Swiss chard is indeed pretty. Now if only I would actually eat it :)

Sionnain - I would love to see your variegated tomatos!!! What is the variety name?
Skandi- the cardoons are lovely! I am considering trying artichokes here as an annual, they are marginal and need a lot of care but I love the taste...

I found this photo from earlier this spring, rhubarb, hosta, chives, columbine, and iris. All but the columbine and iris are edinle, and they look quite nice together.
DSCN9193.JPG
Edible and ornamental
Edible and ornamental
 
Jay Angler
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Catie George wrote:All but the columbine and iris are edible, and they look quite nice together.

Iris rhizomes have use in the medical and perfume industry: https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/i/irises08.html
I've read somewhere about using them as part of a tree-guild and generating a little cash from selling the rhizomes. I do have some under a plum tree, but I just enjoy the flowers!
 
pollinator
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I once grew an enormous flower garden on the site of a previous 5-vehicle commercial garage.  I didn't want to plant food in it right away.  (I bought the land with a deep hole where the foundation used to be.  They claimed to have tested the soil but they weren't the most ethical people I've ever met.  I made soil by dumping leaves there for a few years, so the soil was uncontaminated and fairly deep.)

I started trying a few plants - cherry tomatoes, lacinato kale, cucumber, and pepper.  The property was in an area where many people walked on their way to the bike trail.  The immigrants always asked me why I didn't plant food!  (Permies!)  Once, after explanation, someone asked me, "What's that gorgeous plant?"  Answer:  kale.  Lacinato has a blue tint, is upright, and very handsome!

Once I saw a landscape designer's yard that had a huge rhubarb sitting all by itself in a nook near the edge of the trees.  Everyone always asked her, "What's that gorgeous plant?"  Away from a food garden, it was hard to recognize!
 
Sionainn Cailís
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Catie George wrote:

Sionnain - I would love to see your variegated tomatos!!! What is the variety name?
Skandi- the cardoons are lovely! I am considering trying artichokes here as an annual, they are marginal and need a lot of care but I love the taste...



They are supposedly Irish tomatoes. :)

I have no idea if they have a specific title, only that I managed to get a little bunch of seeds. To the best of my (probably deeply flawed and incomplete) knowledge, Ireland is the home of the only variegated leaf tomatoes. One of those things I could probably research further.

Also to note is that the variegated pattern isn't consistent on all leaves, and apparently comes out more in cooler weather. Something that probably would have been more prominent in a normal year, but this year is abnormally hot.

Anecdotally, I am here in Ontario, Canada, which is suffering under some truly awful tropical weather this summer, and of the 4 Irish tomato plants I have, the two in the sunny hot area are doing very poorly- stunted, runty, and downright miserable looking, with only a handful of tomatoes on each beaten little plant. The two I have in my partial-sun patio planter are extremely happy, and are doing quite well. Apparently everything produced in Ireland is allergic to sun, even summer fruits. . . .

IMG_20200811_122214.jpg
Maybe not the best photo, and I am pretty laxadazical about pruning them :)
Maybe not the best photo, and I am pretty laxadazical about pruning them :)
 
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Nasturtiums! They come in mounding & climbing types, have brilliant flowers, and are very prolific. Buds, flowers and leaves are edible. The leaf is great in sandwiches and salads as a radishy flavored green.

Others have mentioned scarlet runner bean, so let me offer two other vines in the green & purple range-- hycinth beans and malabar spinach.

Okra are very showy in bloom.

Punctuate your gardens with umbellifers (dill, cumin,  anise, caraway), spiking mints (family includes basil, oregano  & many more) and composites (daisy type flowers) to feed beneficials during blooming & feast your eyes! Most of these have edible leaf, flower and often seeds.
 
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I think checkermallows are my most beautiful edibles. Especially when a big group of them are in bloom. They're a great native vegetable.



 
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I like growing mustards in the cool season; many colors, forms and good to eat when small; great for the soil when large.  I enjoy Roselle and various other edible Hibiscus in the hot season, including okra; so pretty!  During the warm season I like edible sunflowers and amaranth.  
 
pollinator
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Sionainn Cailís wrote:

Catie George wrote:

Sionnain - I would love to see your variegated tomatos!!! What is the variety name?
Skandi- the cardoons are lovely! I am considering trying artichokes here as an annual, they are marginal and need a lot of care but I love the taste...



They are supposedly Irish tomatoes. :)

I have no idea if they have a specific title, only that I managed to get a little bunch of seeds. To the best of my (probably deeply flawed and incomplete) knowledge, Ireland is the home of the only variegated leaf tomatoes. One of those things I could probably research further.

Also to note is that the variegated pattern isn't consistent on all leaves, and apparently comes out more in cooler weather. Something that probably would have been more prominent in a normal year, but this year is abnormally hot.



There are actually a number of variegated leaf tomatoes.  Moonlight Mile, Splash of Cream, Painted Lady, Shimofuri, Variegated,  Faelans First Snow(this is a variegated version of Cherokee Purple), Dwarf Pico's Pride,  Dwarf Walters Fancy, Dwarf Elsie’s Fancy and Sweet Splash Electra are all available in the US if anyone is interested in them.
 
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Passionflower vine and okra have some of my favorite blooms. And I love the low splash of color from purple kohlrabi.
 
master pollinator
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Onion and leeks and chives have very pretty flowers that the pollinators go crazy over and the leaves can add a contrast of texture in a flower garden.
 
pollinator
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Sochan is right up there.  Earliest productive spring green and then loads of very tall yellow coneflowers.
 
pollinator
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Heather Staas wrote:Sochan is right up there.  Earliest productive spring green and then loads of very tall yellow coneflowers.



I had no idea this was edible,  how cool, thank you for sharing!
 
Sally Munoz
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I agree with all of what's been mentioned, the herbs, legumes, the beautiful greens.
Scarlet runner beans and purple magnolia peas top my list, along with favas.
Other favorites that I haven't seen mentioned are salsify, walking onions and a variety of mache called Doucette d'Algers.
I also adore my hops and fennel.
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Fava
Fava
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Salsify
Salsify
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Mache
Mache
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Fennel and hops
Fennel and hops
 
Sally Munoz
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I'm also a sucker for flowering trees, my peach trees are in bloom and I'm in heaven. We snack on black locust flowers and while someone told me they were toxic, I haven't observed any ill effects.
20220425_150702.jpg
Buartnut Blossom
Buartnut Blossom
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Black Locust Blossom
Black Locust Blossom
 
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Sally Munoz wrote:We snack on black locust flowers and while someone told me they were toxic, I haven't observed any ill effects.


For your infomer's info, the flowers are edible. Read more here.
 
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It would be shorter to list the plants in my garden that aren't edible! However, the ones that a lot of people are surprised by are
hostas (young shoots),
Campanula (young leaves and flowers),
Jerusalem sage ( suck the nectar from the flowers),
columbine (suck the nectar from the flowers),
saffron crocus (stamens),
Allium siculum (and any other allium, but these have unusual flowers),
sedum (leaves),
Zingiber mioga, especially the variegated ones (young shoots),
Fawn Lily (bulbs),
sweet cicely (whole thing, but young seeds are the best)
Kalonji (seeds)
 
Jay Angler
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C Lundquist wrote:

Fawn Lily (bulbs)

I only recently learned that these are edible and haven't found a lot of info (but I agree they're a beautiful spring plant - not just the flowers, but the leaves are really pretty to my eyes).
1. Do you know if they divide like tulips will, or does each bulb start from a seed?
2. How fast do they multiply for you?
3. Do you know if they're groupies? I want to transplant some to near some apple trees I planted. Do you have any idea if I just plant one bulb here and there around a tree if they'd do better or worse than planting them in little clumps?
4. Do you  have any suggestions of what might help them transplant best?

The ones I'm going to try taking bulbs from have been gradually spreading in a semi-wild area of our property for some time. I specifically marked some spots where I think the density is thick enough that I won't harm Mother Nature if I remove a few bulbs to experiment with. It's important for people to give Mother Nature a helping hand and not destroy wild plots she's been working on for years. This is why I want to try to spread the bulbs to a slightly disturbed area with other human-planted plants, but to do so with caution.
 
C Lundquist
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Jay Angler wrote:C Lundquist wrote:

Fawn Lily (bulbs)

I only recently learned that these are edible and haven't found a lot of info (but I agree they're a beautiful spring plant - not just the flowers, but the leaves are really pretty to my eyes).
1. Do you know if they divide like tulips will, or does each bulb start from a seed?
2. How fast do they multiply for you?
3. Do you know if they're groupies? I want to transplant some to near some apple trees I planted. Do you have any idea if I just plant one bulb here and there around a tree if they'd do better or worse than planting them in little clumps?
4. Do you  have any suggestions of what might help them transplant best?

The ones I'm going to try taking bulbs from have been gradually spreading in a semi-wild area of our property for some time. I specifically marked some spots where I think the density is thick enough that I won't harm Mother Nature if I remove a few bulbs to experiment with. It's important for people to give Mother Nature a helping hand and not destroy wild plots she's been working on for years. This is why I want to try to spread the bulbs to a slightly disturbed area with other human-planted plants, but to do so with caution.



IME they are very easy to grow if in the right place. The bulbs seem to divide and form clumps, as well as the seeds easily sprouting and spreading around a bit. They will make their own clumps so I wouldn't worry about planting then singly. Where they're happy in my garden is a forest location with leafy litter that keeps them moist.

Fritillaries are another edible root! Riceroot is yummy, if fiddly to harvest. Camas too. These are grassland bulbs that prefer a sunnier location than Fawn Lily.
 
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:

Sally Munoz wrote:We snack on black locust flowers and while someone told me they were toxic, I haven't observed any ill effects.


For your infomer's info, the flowers are edible. Read more here.


Interesting article, thanks for the link! I was not aware of all the edible flowers and could still learn something new. The site would have been even better with proper proof-reading and it had a fact wrong about the phlox (which is not an old-world plant but saw the birth of some very pretty breeding varieties in Europe).

As an innocent European I thought the topic was only about pretty edibles and not ones you could sneak into your flowerbeds because where I live there is no need to sneak anything anywhere. Of course I get that you might want to mix something unexpected into your ornamentals ;-)
Apart from the edible flowers mentioned already I think most of my vegetables are beautiful - as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder I just have to think how good they will taste and they instantly become very attractive to me!

As to the question, I am partial to pretty tomatoes. I collect special varieties, often the multi-coloured ones. Artichokes are also so beautiful! Tatsoi is stunning, but my rosettes are not as perfect because the slugs just love all brassicas.
artisanblush_gargamel_ozark_bradsatomic.JPG
some of my tomatoes last summer
some of my tomatoes last summer
 
C Lundquist
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Another couple surprising edibles: lilies and dahlias.

Dahlia roots are edible, although many of the hybrids are not particularly tasty. https://www.cultivariable.com/instructions/root-crops/how-to-grow-edible-dahlias/

Some, but not all, Lily bulbs are edible. Lily bulbs eaten: Lilium brownii, L. lancifolium, L. davidii, (those are the 3 most common), also L. concolor, L. pensylvanicum, L. distichum, L. martagon, L. pumilum, L. rosthornii, L. speciosum, L. leichtlinii, L. candidum, L. auratum, L. maculatum, L. canadense, L. columbianum
 
Jenny Wright
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Anita Martin wrote:
Apart from the edible flowers mentioned already I think most of my vegetables are beautiful - as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder I just have to think how good they will taste and they instantly become very attractive to me!

As to the question, I am partial to pretty tomatoes. I collect special varieties, often the multi-coloured ones. Artichokes are also so beautiful! Tatsoi is stunning, but my rosettes are not as perfect because the slugs just love all brassicas.


Your tomatoes are gorgeous!!! 😍
 
Dorothy Pohorelow
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Anita Martin wrote:

As an innocent European I thought the topic was only about pretty edibles and not ones you could sneak into your flowerbeds because where I live there is no need to sneak anything anywhere. Of course I get that you might want to mix something unexpected into your ornamentals ;-)
Apart from the edible flowers mentioned already I think most of my vegetables are beautiful - as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder I just have to think how good they will taste and they instantly become very attractive to me!



We are not just talking about plants we can sneak past an HOA or other over reaching organization/gov.  Some of us want a source of food that most folks in our area would think are just pretty plants...  if we make them look like "normal" landscaping or flower gardens they are less likely to be raided by hungry people.   I just planted seeds in a beautiful purple grow bag.  I put in Rainbow Chard, Bullsblood Beets, carrots, shallots, and a version of Lacinato kale that has a lot of colors.  If all goes as planned that bag will be full of colorful foliage in different shapes and textures making it look like a wild riot of color to most folk but will be a nice source of salad greens for us.
 
C Lundquist
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I don't think of sneaking anything anywhere either, I just pick useful plants. If they're perennial, they go in my "flower" beds. A lot of ornamental plants have uses too and sometimes you just need to research plants that are already growing. Most of my perennial beds are just randomly planted, but I do have a rainbow garden which I arrange by color, but even there 90% of the plants have a use.
 
Jenny Wright
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C Lundquist wrote:I don't think of sneaking anything anywhere either, I just pick useful plants. If they're perennial, they go in my "flower" beds. A lot of ornamental plants have uses too and sometimes you just need to research plants that are already growing. Most of my perennial beds are just randomly planted, but I do have a rainbow garden which I arrange by color, but even there 90% of the plants have a use.


Nice, do you have a picture of your rainbow garden?
 
Anita Martin
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Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:
We are not just talking about plants we can sneak past an HOA or other over reaching organization/gov.  Some of us want a source of food that most folks in our area would think are just pretty plants...  if we make them look like "normal" landscaping or flower gardens they are less likely to be raided by hungry people.   I just planted seeds in a beautiful purple grow bag.  I put in Rainbow Chard, Bullsblood Beets, carrots, shallots, and a version of Lacinato kale that has a lot of colors.  If all goes as planned that bag will be full of colorful foliage in different shapes and textures making it look like a wild riot of color to most folk but will be a nice source of salad greens for us.


Thanks for clarifying, you were right: I was thinking of those pesky HOA stories you hear on the internet.

I am not a conservative gardener and don't think ornamental and vegetable garden should be separate. BUT due to slug pressure I put most of my edibles in my specific veggie beds where I can better control them. I do have some flowers in my veggie beds and some edibles throughout the garden - raspberries, alpine strawberries, topinambur and of course fruit trees, as well as tomatoes, garlic, lettuce, herbs and cucumbers on windowsills and on the terrace which sometimes surprises visitors.

As regards to sneaking for other reasons: I am not afraid of raiding people, for several reasons. Not even in the pandemic have we encountered any food shortages. Supply is good, we have local producers, and before things turn nasty I guess many more people would turn to gardening (many single family homes with gardens around here). People who are knowledgeable would start a garden. And then there are people who would not know how vegetables look like in unprocessed shape  (or how to prepare them for eating) - no need to be afraid of those!

The allotment garden is a different story because nobody watches the veggies. We had to experience loss of some tools already (now we have a shed with a lock). Everybody could go there and steal stuff, either people from outside or even one of the co-gardeners. One neighbour told us she had her peaches disappearing first one after the other and then by batches.
Let's see how things work out in the long run. Last year we had no losses (except the tools).
I am very intrigued about my chinese "the thief won't take them" tomatoes which I had mentioned before (I got the seeds from my chinese SIL). They remain grean like an unripe tomato (not like a green zebra, but paler). I have six little plants this year and might expand if necessary!
 
Jenny Wright
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Anita Martin wrote:

As regards to sneaking for other reasons: I am not afraid of raiding people, for several reasons. Not even in the pandemic have we encountered any food shortages. Supply is good, we have local producers, and before things turn nasty I guess many more people would turn to gardening (many single family homes with gardens around here). People who are knowledgeable would start a garden. And then there are people who would not know how vegetables look like in unprocessed shape  (or how to prepare them for eating) - no need to be afraid of those!...
...I am very intrigued about my chinese "the thief won't take them" tomatoes which I had mentioned before (I got the seeds from my chinese SIL). They remain grean like an unripe tomato (not like a green zebra, but paler). I have six little plants this year and might expand if necessary!


Your tomatoes sound interesting. Along that line, I find that our white strawberries remain untouched by animal thieves. I had my parents' taking care of a big container of them for a few years when we lived in another part of the country and one day they mentioned, "You know those strawberries of yours? They never get ripe. They just stay white and then eventually start rotting!" I had to laugh. They really are delicious and so pretty with seeds that turn pink when the berries are ripe- that's the only indication they are ready to eat.

I also am not spending time worrying about thieves. We are out in the middle of nowhere but in a worst case situation, if rather try to share and educate than let people starve. I understand that's not everyone's plan. Vandals on the other hand I have very little patience with but they aren't going to be stopped by something looking pretty.
 
Catie George
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Anita Martin wrote:

As an innocent European I thought the topic was only about pretty edibles and not ones you could sneak into your flowerbeds because where I live there is no need to sneak anything anywhere. Of course I get that you might want to mix something unexpected into your ornamentals ;-)
Apart from the edible flowers mentioned already I think most of my vegetables are beautiful - as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder I just have to think how good they will taste and they instantly become very attractive to me!



This question is a mix of things,  thankfully HOAs are very rare here in Canada, and a piece of land being in a restrictive covenant reduces it's price, and properties sit on the market forever even in a hot market - no Canadian wants our neighbours to tell us what to do! Zoning bylaws are bad enough, thank you very much! But I know many Americans have to deal with HOAs, so I did think about them when I asked this, as I know many things I plant my neighbours are shocked to learn are not just decorative.

Still, there's this idea we shouldn't put 'food' in our front gardens. Partially for ornamental reasons, and partially because people in busy areas are known to steal things like tomato's and peppers as they walk by, which can be very frustrating!

And there's an idea that you can't have both beauty and food, that I wanted to challenge.

And part of this question related to just the sheer joy of having something beautiful to look at. Mixed colours, foilages, shapes, textures make a vegetable garden lovely to hang out in and ornamental, not something to be hidden.  We have a bench on the edge of our veggie garden so we can look over it and admire it in the summer.
 
C Lundquist
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Jenny Wright wrote:
Nice, do you have a picture of your rainbow garden?



Here's a collage I made of the colors. There are many more plants than this but this is a sampling.
White: thyme
Pink: rock soapwort (makes a soap)
Red/orange: roses, edible and perfume
Yellow: native cinquefoil species
Green: wild ginger, edible root
Turquoise: lambs ear, medicinal and the kids love it
Blue: lithodora, just for the unusual flower color
Purple: Iris, dye plant
CollageMaker_20210601_191035242.jpg
[Thumbnail for CollageMaker_20210601_191035242.jpg]
 
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Catie - I lived in an area with a strict HOA. It wasn't strict when we moved there, but new people got involved and cracked down on things and added new restrictions including no fruit trees in the front yard. Thankfully they couldn't make you remove existing fruit trees. I hid all kinds of edibles in my front yard, lots of herbs, 4 fruit trees, sorrel. Most people had no idea that it was food. Many people in the area had fruit trees that they didn't harvest from at all and appreciated strangers "cleaning up" the fruit. So glad to have left there, no one should be forbidden to grow food.
 
Jenny Wright
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C Lundquist wrote:

Jenny Wright wrote:
Nice, do you have a picture of your rainbow garden?



Here's a collage I made of the colors. There are many more plants than this but this is a sampling.
White: thyme
Pink: rock soapwort (makes a soap)
Red/orange: roses, edible and perfume
Yellow: native cinquefoil species
Green: wild ginger, edible root
Turquoise: lambs ear, medicinal and the kids love it
Blue: lithodora, just for the unusual flower color
Purple: Iris, dye plant


Very pretty! Lambs ear is so fun and textural. My kids love it too. We have so much the kids can pick as much as they want to make their bouquets. I didn't know it's medicinal!
 
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